Why Colonia de Sacramento:
When looking for ways to fly back from Argentina to the US, I realized that it was $1400 cheaper to fly from Montevideo, Uruguay instead of Buenos Aires, where I was staying for the better part of the past month.
The easiest way to reach Uruguay from Buenos Aires is via a ferry. While there are some direct ferries to Montevideo, most stop in the much closer town of Colonia de Sacramento, where patrons take buses.
Given that Colonia de Sacramento (or Colonia) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, I decided to spend a night there and take the bus to Montevideo after work the next day.
Ferry tickets are more like plane tickets than bus tickets. The price rises as the date approaches, there are multiple classes of tickets. It is advised to book ahead. Also, the ferry tickets are not cheap! I paid about $50 USD for the one-way ride.
November 22, 2022: Uruguay No Ma
After my final day working in my company´s Buenos Aires office, I headed to ferry terminal to catch boat to Colonia. Unfortunately, there was a demonstration blocking the road (this happens ALL the time here) so I had to walk the final kilometer.
The ferry terminal was beautiful and looked very much like an airport.
After checking in 90 minutes before departure, I cleared immigration for both Argentina and Uruguay who both stamped my passport.
The ride across the Rio de la Plata took just over an hour. We were graced by a spectacular sunset.
Once in Uruguay, we went through a baggage X-ray but were otherwise free to go. It was here that most customers then boarded the waiting buses to take them to Montevideo. I, instead, walked into town. The walk to the hostel was just 10 minutes.
After checking into the beautiful hostel, I got dinner at a local restaurant. While tempted by the steak, I instead ordered a chuvito, a Uruguayan sandwich and a beer to toast 81 countries visited! What a journey it has been!!
Interestingly, if you pay with a foreign credit card, the 22% VAT tax is automatically deducted from the bill. So, even with a 10% tip, the amount paid is lower than the menu price! I really like this country.
November 23, 2022: Sightseeing on the Job
Today was my day to explore the town of Colonia. Due to the time difference, I had the morning to explore before my first meeting at work.
Colonia has an incredible history. It was established in 1680 by the Portuguese who were seeking to resolve the southern border of Brazil. Almost immediately, the Spanish invaded and captured the town. It was returned to Portugal the next year. It continued to bounce back and forth between Portugal and Spain until 1828 when it became part of the independent country of Uruguay. When part of Portugal, the town was a major smuggling port.
The old town is unique because it contains both Spanish and Portuguese elements. While Colonia is historic, there aren´t that many actual attractions to see.
The front of the old city is the Portuguese fortress which looks crazily like the Bandra fortress in Mumbai India. Indeed, the two were built just 40 years apart
The lighthouse (faro) is built in the 19th century the ruins of a 17th century convent. Unfortunately, it was also closed for the day.
The main square is pretty, lush, and empty. The church was also not open, but it would open later in the day.
There were some beautiful streets, but besides that not much to see.
After 1 hour of wandering, I had seen everything and headed back to the hostel to work. The hostel turned out to be full of remote workers like myself. We all sat in the kitchen on our Zoom meetings as the World Cup played in the background. What a funny sight that would never have occurred pre-pandemic.
For lunch, I got a better chuvito from a cart across the street from the hostel.
Later in the day, I had a break and was able to return to the old city. This time, the church was open. Inside was a huge tour group of locals. They asked me to take their picture before explaining that one of the statues in the church was of the patron saint of Uruguay and was very important.
With that I saw everything in town. That evening, I headed to the bus terminal to catch the 3-hour ride to Montevideo (a longer ride than I was expecting). I ended up having a work emergency on the bus ride- somehow the bus had lightning-fast Wi-Fi and I was able to solve the issue quickly.
While Colonia has an illustrious history, I generally found it to be underwhelming. It is a pretty colonial town, but there are many other prettier colonial towns out there.
If you are in Buenos Aires, I do see the appeal to visit a new country and if you are in transit to Montevideo, then it is a fine stopover. A half-day is plenty to see everything, and I would certainly book no more than 1 night here without good reason.
Colonia and Uruguay as a whole seem like a very nice place to live. I appreciate the stable financial situation and the fact that credit cards work.